Sunday, 9 September 2012

Reading patterns and relating layers: hermeneutic experiences with narrative.

In between the many 'other' things of life, I've been continuing to analyse / interpret the narrative data in my PhD study. I previously reflected that a key moment for me was thinking about the status of the maps I had been producing (see previous post). These 'maps', I argue, are part 'data' and part hermeneutic tool, in that they will be used with participants to reconfigure their narratives again in the cycle of sense making I have related to Paul Ricoeur's take on the hermeneutic or mimetic arc. 

I am now at a point where I have produced what I called 'semantic maps' of each participant's narrative. The hope here was to begin with looking at the structure of narratives of professional identity - how they 'hang together'. When I take these back to participants, I will ask them about the patterns and connections they see. I hope that the 'maps' will provide rich opportunities for further reflection, justification or refiguration of narratives. I suppose they represent some form of objectification of narratives and another mirror for participants to see their stories in.

Talking about the 'semantic maps' forms the first stage only of analysis. This past week, I have begun to  relate these maps to another 'level' of data available to us. In addition to first order (talk about me) and second order (reflection on this talk) narrative data, I have a whole set of data which richly describes the social context for the creation and use of these narratives. The central point of interest for me is to relate the social context to the narratives - in other words, as I've previously said, how narratives come from experience and how - in turn - they are refigured to direct and shape ongoing action. I have begun to maps lines of connection from the narrative to the social context. The results are starting to look like an intruiging cats cradle of connections to explore together. 

I'm aware that presenting participants with 'maps' could be a confusing and disorientating experience. it is important that participants see this is re-engaging with their stories and sense making, and not with some 'impressive' process. I think good methodology can often (and should often) be as invisible as it can be. Of course, researchers tend to get caught up with how great what they are doing is, and it ends up a distraction. I hope my methodology, whilst not invisible (I must locate and recognise myself in the process) will focus on the meaning making and reflection that is so critical in my study. Because of this, in addition to the maps, I will start with presenting participants with cartoons.

You can see in my sketchbook, I want to talk with people about how their narratives can be looked at in their own right - as per the 'semantic maps' in my last post - and taken (to a degree) 'at face value' or can also be related to their social contexts. 

In a discussion with my second supervisor I used the term surface and deep structure of the narrative, but I'm not sure that I meant to say the social 'roots' of narrative were more true as such, but just a different picture. However, it is this different picture I am focusing on, and it is this different picture - the connections or relationships between what we say and the social contexts of creation and use - that is not recognised or examined in professional practice, or very often in academia.